Mobile companies have not fared particularly well offering their own music services. But prepaid operator Cricket Wireless hopes to buck this trend with the introduction of a new branded mobile music service called Muve, set to go live sometime in January.
Who? Cricket may only have about five million customers nationwide, but this is still an interesting launch to follow that could have significant implications on mobile music strategy if successful.
Let's start with the service itself. For a fixed monthly fee, users can download an unlimited number of songs and albums to a specially branded Muve music phone. The phone is a customized version of the Samsung Suede that prominently features a dedicated Muve button on the face, which launches the music service. It has licensing deals with all the major labels that include the right to create custom ringtones from every song in the catalog, as well as ringback tones from many as well.
It includes a version of the Shazam music ID service that links tagged songs directly to the Muve music database for downloading. A My DJ feature offers a cached automated playlist curated by the Muve staff and refreshed daily. The Get Social feature lets users share songs and playlists with other Muve users. And a cool Shout feature lets users embed music in text messages via a link that will stream the whole song when sent to other Muve users but only a 30-second sample to others.
Downloads are lightning fast -- less than 10 seconds -- and all the services are governed by a slick, easy-to-understand user interface. Unlike other mobile music services that slap mobile access to an existing online service, Muve was built from the ground up specifically for mobile by the Wilshire Media Group, led by former Virgin Digital president Zack Zalon.
Here's the kicker though: it's a mobile-only service. There's no Web version or dual downloads, or any of those hybrid mobile/online capabilities that other mobile music services have. Stop paying and you lose your music. But rather than treating this like a fault, Cricket touts it as a badge.